What does translation cost per word?

If you’re looking to purchase anything, one of the first questions you’re likely to want the answer to is: How much does it cost? And this is no different for translation, especially considering that pricing on service providers websites can sometimes be hidden away, opaque in its detail or non-existent.

One reason for this might be that there is no hard and fast rule for working out translation costs – and everyone tends to do things a bit differently. Different countries use different base units, some languages are more expensive than others and certain types of texts require a lot more research and investment.

In this article we’ll explore:
>> basic principles that affect translation pricing, such as language pair and resource availability
>> other factors, such as urgency, deadlines and reference material

This article will help you to understand why your translation project costs what it does, what factors affect the cost, and some basic numbers to give you a rough cost calculation.

 

Language

The first thing to bear in mind is which languages you want to invest in for your texts. One thing to consider in this thought is that some languages cost significantly more than others. There are a variety of reasons for this, including local costs and availability of linguists.

For example, Scandinavian languages tend to be at the pricey end of the scale due to the relatively high living costs within those countries, whilst rare African languages tend to also be more expensive due to the lack of resources operating. Supply and demand are major factors affecting translation pricing.

Cheaper Languages

Common European Languages
for example:
French, Spanish, Italian

Widely Spoken Languages
for example:
Chinese, Arabic

More Costly Lanugages

High Cost of Living
for example:
Scandi, Dutch, Japanese

Low Resource Languages
for example:
Rare African Languages

Industry

The cost per word for translation can also vary across industries. It could also be the case that even within your own business you’ll have different requirements. Certain types of text can cost more to translate. In this way, legal and technical translations are likely to carry a higher price than a general marketing or HR document. But again it’s not always so clear-cut. If you are looking to have a dynamic, modern marketing campaign you will need a certain type of translation and linguist, something along the lines of transcreation, where the translator recreates the source text.

So it’s important to think about what type of project you have on your hands when it comes to cost and how perhaps you can simplify things. Projects that come with a wide variety or reference materials, glossaries and translation memories are going to result in more efficient and simplified work and therefore lower costs all round.

Deadline / Urgency

Another variable that can change the cost of the translation is deadline. If you have any urgent request, we’ll always do our utmost to fit this in. But on occasions urgent deadlines can mean evening and/or weekend work.

 

This leads to higher per-word prices to cover translator costs, so it’s always a good idea to try and plan enough time within working hours to complete your translation – around 1,500 words per day is a good way to estimate this.

 

Pricing examples

Pricing examples below are correct at time of publication (updated Jan 2021). Real-world pricing can be lower due to repetition and volume discounts.

Translation costs vary for a number of reasons, so we always recommend getting a quote. A translation company will analyse the source files(s), and might be able to save you some money too!

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